Federal officials including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Washington state lawmakers and university leaders in early August for the groundbreaking of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Plant Sciences Building on the Washington State University (WSU) campus in Pullman.

ARS is USDA’s “in-house research agency” focused on delivering scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges. ARS conducts wheat quality research through four regional Wheat Quality Laboratories (WQLs) focused on wheat types commonly grown in its region, including the Western Wheat Quality Laboratory also located at WSU. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has strong partnerships with each WQL as well as universities like WSU.

The new building at WSU is planned for opening in 2025. The WSU Plant Pathology, Crop and Soil Sciences, and Horticulture departments will inhabit the new building alongside federal scientists and four ARS research units: Wheat Health, Genetics and Quality; Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology; Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems; and Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing.

At the ground-breaking ceremony, more than 150 guests listened as speakers discussed the 20-year path to securing support for this new facility.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a podium with the USDA seal addressing participants in a ground breaking ceremony for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building at Washington State University (WSU).

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. WSU Photo.

Secretary Vilsack asked attendees to think ahead to a future when the facility is completed, bustling with students, faculty, and researchers looking to solve the problems facing farmers in Washington and far beyond.

“There’s an effort to try to make sure that we understand how to deal with a particular disease that is impacting wheat production. And imagine the spark, the passion, the energy, the excitement that occurs when the solution is discovered. That’s what this facility is about, that moment of discovery,” he said.

Vilsack noted the new facility will not only be a place for discovery but also a resource that farmers both local and far afield of the Palouse will benefit from in the form of new techniques and greater insight into the vital work they do.

“To the extent that we have a university and a government research entity in partnership, ensuring that farmer, that rancher, that grower, that producer, can continue to be productive is an enormous opportunity for this country, and each one of us should be thankful at this groundbreaking for the science that’ll take place that’ll help these farmers, ranchers, and producers continue to productive,” Vilsack said.

Elizabeth Chilton, the inaugural chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus, noted that the groundbreaking represented much more than the beginning of a new research facility.

“It is evidence of the incredible partnership that WSU celebrates with USDA and our local, state, and federal legislators, commissioners, and communities,” Chilton said. “The groundbreaking research that this facility will support will literally change lives. This building will support faculty members, students, and researchers partnering together to create better crops and more sustainable farming practices so that we’re able to better feed our planet.”

Guests and dignitaries attending a ground breaking ceremony at Washington State University (WSU) for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building.

Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan (second from right) was among dignitaries and guests at the USDA-ARS Plant Sciences Building Groundbreaking ceremony on the campus of Washington State University Aug. 1, 2023. WSU Photo.

In addition to representatives from the federal government and Washington state agriculture groups (including Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan), WSU Board of Regents Chair Lisa Schauer and Regent Brent Blankenship, a Washington state wheat farmer and Past President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, also attended the events.

This article includes excerpts and photographs from an article in “WSU Insider” by RJ Wolcott. Read more here.


A business card to describe the jobs Art Schultheis fills in a typical year would be too big for any pocket.

“I drive a tractor and harvest with a combine – all the things people think a farmer does,” explained Schultheis, a fifth-generation farmer from Colton, Washington. “But behind the scenes I’m also a mechanic, I’m a bookkeeper, and, like most farmers, I have a whole long list of other jobs.”

Planning Ahead

On a late August afternoon, in a wheat field a dozen or so miles north of his home, Schultheis greeted a film crew (photo above) with a glance to the sky and a shrug. A soft rain had begun to fall, bringing that day’s harvest to a reluctant halt.

“I am not going to even try to predict it,” he announced to the film crew, while taking another glance upward. “But I think we may as well plan to get back at it tomorrow.”

Yet another job for Schultheis: planning strategist.

The film crew was commissioned by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), which is collecting “Stories of Stewardship” from wheat farmers across the country to highlight their efforts to produce high-quality crop using sustainable practices.

In August, the 61-year-old Schultheis was harvesting his 40th wheat crop. His diversified operation typically grows hard red winter (HRW), soft white winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), and hard white spring wheat. The farm has also produced barley, garbanzo beans, lentils, Kentucky bluegrass seed, oats, canola, and alfalfa. There are also 10 beef cows to take care of.

Photo shows two men, farmers, standing next to each other and looking to the left side of the photo; in the background there is a tractor pulling a wagon through a golden wheat field.

Colton, Washington, farmers Art Schultheis, right, and his son Kyle Schultheis.

An Eye to the Future

Schultheis took over Diamond S Farms from his father more than three decades ago. With an eye to the future, his son Kyle has returned to the farm and is being mentored to one day take over all his father’s jobs. Bringing Kyle into the mix is part of the family’s approach to sustainability.

“To me, there are three parts to sustainability,” Schultheis explained. “Number one is I want to leave the land in better shape than when I started farming. Number two is my farm must be profitable. If you are not profitable, you are not sustainable. Number three is that you need a succession plan for your farm to continue to operate through generations.”

As the film crew set up the next morning to capture his story, Schultheis pointed out that sustainability is second nature to him and all other farmers.

“We have always cared for the land, but now we have tools that we never had decades ago,” he said. “We can do things today that we could not do in the past, and the soil keeps producing at higher and higher levels. One of my hopes for Kyle is that when I’m gone, he can stand here and say he learned things from me and makes the land even better than it will be once I call it quits.”

USW’s Stories of Stewardship series will be available for all to see and explore. It is expected to be of special interest to customers of U.S. wheat around the world.

Responsible as Possible

“I think consumers here in the United States and across the world are asking questions about where their food comes from,” said Schultheis. “On our farm, we do not raise commodities, we are raising food. And we need to be as responsible as possible because we know the end-consumer is making that connection between where food comes from and how it is produced. To be honest, it makes my job a lot more fun.”

And by his “job,” Schultheis means every single one of them.



Whitman County in eastern Washington State is the most productive wheat-producing county in the United States. There, near the town of St. John in “The Palouse,” the Bailey family has grown winter and spring soft white and club wheat and barley for three generations.

Erin Bailey and her father Mark Bailey working on equipment on their farm in eastern Washington state as part of the Stories of Stewardship campaign.

Erin Bailey and Mark Bailey farm with Mark’s brother Gary in eastern Washington’s Palouse country. “It is my responsibility to [farm] sustainably to provide for the next generations of our family,” Erin said.

Gary Bailey (above with a team of wheat buyers from Myanmar and Malaysia) farms with his brother Mark Bailey and Mark’s daughter Erin. He serves on the Washington Grain Commission and represents his state as a Director of U.S. Wheat Associates. He also serves on Washington State University’s Land Legacy Council.

“Whitman County has deep, fertile soils and adequate rainfall to produce a great dryland wheat crop,” Gary said. “And we want to keep it around for the next generation. So, we are doing whatever we can to maintain that soil base and, in fact, to improve it.”

Reducing Environmental Impact

According to the Washington Grain Commission, over many generations, wheat farmers in the state have embraced stewardship and successfully reduced their environmental footprint while remaining highly productive. The adoption of no-tillage and reduced tillage equipment and systems has helped them dramatically reduce soil erosion. Precision technology has helped reduce the volume of crop protection inputs needed to ensure wholesome and productive crops.

“Protecting our farmland is one of the major challenges we face,” said Mark Bailey. “So we have to continually change the ways we grow wheat and other crops and do the best job we can to keep those resources for the next generation and the next.”

Learn More

Gary, Mark, and Erin Bailey shared more about preserving their land and growing safe, wholesome wheat for their family and the world in the following video story produced in 2020.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is reaching out to wheat farmers across the United States to learn how they strive to improve their land and manage resources. Each is committed to adapting to the many challenges they face and making choices that are best for the environment, their individual farms, and their customers. We are proud to share their “Stories of Stewardship.”

Drought conditions have grown progressively worse in the PNW over the last few months as temperatures increased rapidly and measurable precipitation remained scarce, depleting soil moisture and stressing the planted wheat crop.Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Drought conditions have grown progressively worse in the PNW over the last few months as temperatures increased rapidly and measurable precipitation remained scarce, depleting soil moisture and stressing the planted wheat crop.
Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Amid this year’s volatile markets and relatively slow demand, U.S. soft white wheat (SW) has provided many customers with buying opportunities, positioning itself as one of the most competitive classes of U.S. wheat.

In recent months, dryness in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) this spring dominated market news and discussions about quality. As harvest ramps up across the SW growing region, more information is expected to become available regarding SW production, yield, and quality. In the meantime, this article will recap the current soft white wheat situation and provide background on supply factors as harvest progresses in the PNW.

Production Outlook: A Tri-State Effort

White wheat is typically one of the classes with the most stable planted area. The June 30 USDA acreage estimates showed a slight increase in white wheat acres to 4.28 million acres, up from 4.24 million acres in 2022/23, with a specific increase in the SW producing state of Oregon. Despite the increased area, dry conditions have lingered, and have had a potentially detrimental impact on yield potential and quality. The USDA Crop Production Report released on July 12 forecasts SW production at 6.7 MMT, down from 7.4 MMT the year prior and 600,000 MT below the five-year average of 7.2 MMT. However, the forecast is still above the 2021/22 production levels of 5.47 MMT after severe drought diminished yield potential and increased protein levels.

On a per state basis, production potential differs throughout the growing region. Wheat production is forecast to be down in Washington and Oregon by 15% and 16%, respectively. Meanwhile, in Idaho, all wheat production is forecast at 2.45 MMT, down 2% from the year prior. Though the Idaho crop is behind on development, some growing regions have benefitted from cool weather and scattered showers.

2023/23 SW production is forecast at 6.7 MMT, down 9% from last year and 7% below the five-year average.Source: USDA ERS Wheat Data

2023/23 SW production is forecast at 6.7 MMT, down 9% from last year and 7% below the five-year average.
Source: USDA ERS Wheat Data

The Current Balance Sheet

Throughout the latter part of the 2022/23 marketing year, industry sources reported slow selling by farmers and increased stocks held on the farm. Due to the increased stocks held by farmers, beginning stocks for the 2023/24 marketing year increased by 500,000 MT to 2 MMT, the first stocks increase since 2020/21. Though protein levels of the 2023 crop are not yet known, the increased old crop wheat stocks can be blended with new crop to help meet customer specifications.

Moreover, SW prices have softened substantially over the past year, weighed down by recovered production in the 2022/23 crop year, decreased export demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures as exporters more aggressively price SW into the global market. Over the last six months, SW prices have decreased from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023, their lowest level since November 2020. Furthermore, there has been little to no premium for max 9.5% protein versus max 10.5% protein throughout a majority of the 2022/23 crop year.

Despite the 9% decrease in SW production for 2023/24, total supply is down only 2% due to increased carryover stocks from the year prior. Source: USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

Despite the 9% decrease in SW production for 2023/24, total supply is down only 2% due to increased carryover stocks from the year prior.
Source: USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

Looking Ahead

As of July 17, the USDA crop progress report put winter wheat in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho at 6%, 15%, and 5% harvested, respectively. With little harvest progress and no quality data collected, no definitive information is yet available regarding SW production yield, and quality characteristics. Keep in mind that anecdotal evidence generally indicates that dryland areas and regions with shallow soil are harvested first. Thus, higher protein is expected to be registered early in the season.

U.S. Wheat Associates recommends closely monitoring the SW harvest and maintaining regular communication with your supplier regarding protein availability and premiums. For weekly updates to harvest and price information subscribe to the U.S. Wheat Associates Harvest Report and Price Report.

SW prices have softened substantially over the last six months, decreasing from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023. SW prices hover at their lowest level since November 2020, pressured by low demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures.Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report

SW prices have softened substantially over the last six months, decreasing from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023. SW prices hover at their lowest level since November 2020, pressured by low demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures.
Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report






Just one year ago, U.S. wheat prices hovered near record highs. The geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stoked supply concerns and fears of spiraling food price inflation, and India had just banned wheat exports, further fueling wheat supply fears.

Flash forward to the week of May 2, 2023, Chicago Board of Trade soft red winter wheat (SRW) futures traded at their lowest level since March of 2021 at $5.95/bushel, earning that class the elusive honor of being the cheapest wheat on the world market.

After months of high prices, SRW and soft white (SW) classes have finally become more price competitive, providing a buying opportunity for importers. In this article, we will look in-depth at the market conditions for U.S. soft wheat classes and the factors influencing the entire market.

U.S. soft white wheat futures prices.

U.S. wheat prices retreated significantly the week of May 5 to touch near two year lows before ending slightly higher, demonstrating how quickly price sentiment can shift, though soft red winter wheat prices have trended lower. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Charting Tool.

Competitive U.S. Soft Wheat Classes

Looking back, the U.S. soft wheat classes were poised to be more competitive thanks to several positive supply-side factors. Last year, both SW and SRW registered above-average production. The SW harvest came in at 4% above the five-year average and 35% above the drought-afflicted 2021/22 crop, while SRW was 16% above the five-year average, even boasting two large crops at 9.8 MMT in 2021/22 and 9.1 MMT in 2022/23.

Moreover, heading into marketing year 2023/24, the production outlook for SRW and SW remains positive. According to the USDA Prospective Plantings Report, SRW planted area increased 18% to 7.8 million acres (3.1 hectares), while white wheat plantings are estimated up 2% at 4.33 million acres (1.75 million hectares). The combination of good production last year and a positive outlook for the 2023 crop helped position SW and SRW to capture demand and remain competitive on the world market.

With the production bump and increased global competition, U.S. soft wheat prices have steadily decreased in the last few weeks. For a brief moment on May 2, U.S. SRW was the cheapest wheat in the world, coming in on average $10.00/MT FOB less than French wheat, $14.00/MT less than Russian wheat, and $13.00/MT less than Ukrainian. As a result, the U.S. Wheat commercial sales recorded 145,000 MT of SRW last week, the entire quantity likely bound for China. Meanwhile, SW wheat FOB prices hovered at $275.00/MT compared to $288.00/MT for Australian Standard White.

U.S. soft white wheat FOB export prices.

U.S. soft wheat prices have trended lower in search of demand. Soft white wheat prices have decreased by 39% since April 2022, while SRW has dropped by 45%. Even since the start of 2023, prices have come down 12% and 18%, respectively. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report

Underlying Bearish Market Factors

In addition to the positive supply outlook for soft wheat classes, recent bearish market factors have also been at play, influencing all U.S. wheat class prices. Last week hard red spring (HRS hit a nearly two-year low of $7.58/bu while hard red winter wheat (HRW) breached the $8.00/bu barrier to close at $7.71/bu. Seasonal influences also contribute to a fall in prices, especially for the soft wheat classes with a looser balance sheet and optimistic production outlook. Farmers and exporters will need to clear out their bins as new crop approaches to make room for the upcoming harvest.

Additionally, In the last two weeks, rain has fallen on some of the most drought-afflicted areas of the U.S. Southern Plains. Before these showers, it had been over 270 days since 0.25 inches of moisture (6.35 mm) had been recorded in some areas. The rains helped relieve some price pressure as the market assessed the moisture’s impact on drought conditions in the HRW growing region.

Beware The Bull

Demonstrated by this week’s jump in futures prices from the previous week’s lows, bullish influences are always lurking, especially as the Black Sea conflict continues to be an unpredictable bullish influence. As the Black Sea Grain Initiative approaches its May 18 expiration date, the longevity of the corridor hinges on Russia’s continued cooperation.

Furthermore, though the major HRW growing region in the Southern Plains received needed rains, there is concern about its impact. Some say the showers were “too little too late” for the crop as many fields already face abandonment.

Map of NOAA's prediction of long-term drought showing how U.S. soft white wheat is outside of the drought area.

Despite the rains in the U.S. Southern Plains, drought persists throughout the central HRW growing region. The recent showers helped improve soil moisture but not enough to reverse the drought impacts. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor.

Key Takeaways

This week’s price movements are just the latest example of how quickly market sentiment can shift, especially with influences as unpredictable as the weather and the war in Ukraine. Amidst the persistent market volatility, buyers must be wary of the market trends and be positioned to take advantage of every buying opportunity. As always, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representatives are committed to helping customers capitalize on market opportunities and navigate the ever-changing wheat market.


Roy Chung has been teaching U.S. wheat’s international customers about the value of frozen dough for more than 30 years.  During the COVID pandemic, many of his points about frozen dough’s importance in the marketplace were confirmed, as bakeries that were using it were able to continue operations despite staffing shortages. Chung, a U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) bakery consultant, predicts that frozen dough demand around the world will continue to grow, which is good news for U.S. hard red spring (HRS), hard red winter (HRW) and soft white (SW) wheat. In this short video, Chung provides an overview of frozen dough and its importance to businesses and bakeries that purchase U.S. wheat.

Flour from U.S. soft white wheat was an ingredient in the 'Science of Souffle' course at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong.

Flour from U.S. soft white wheat was an ingredient in the ‘Science of Souffle’ course at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong.

U.S. wheat shared the spotlight with U.S. eggs, U.S. dairy and a Netflix celebrity at a Hong Kong event designed to help student chefs understand some of the science behind baking.

A special course titled the “Science of Souffle” was presented March 14 by the Agricultural Trade Office (ATO) and the U.S. Consulate’s Public Affairs Section (PAS). Student chefs at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) participated in the course, which featured visiting speaker Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, a U.S. astrophysicist and co-host of the Netflix series “Baking Impossible.”

Oluseyi spoke about the science of baking, along with his own personal story. Local chef Phyllis Lam led students in preparing their own souffles using U.S. wheat flour, milk and cheese – in combination with local flavors like citrus and black sesame.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Regional Vice President Jeff Coey said USW’s Hong Kong Office contributed U.S. soft white (SW) flour for the course and shared information about the classes of U.S. wheat and how the quality of U.S. wheat benefits bakers and other end users.

“It was a small but fun event that served as an opportunity to create awareness for U.S. wheat among future bakers and chefs in the market,” said Coey.

Along with USW, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council and the U.S. Dairy Export Council contributed to the “Science of Souffle” event.


Instead of asking “what’s in store” for crackers and cookies and other wheat-based snack foods in a post-COVID world, those in the U.S. wheat industry may want to ask the same question in a slightly modified way.

What’s in the store?

When COVID hit in 2020, international consumers had already been drawn to convenient foods that fit snacking lifestyles. Boxes of crackers were tucked into office drawers. Sleeves of cookies – often referred to as “biscuits” in some foreign markets – were slid into backpacks. While work routines and travel screeched to a halt, snacking habits sped forward. In fact, market research over the past year has indicated that, in many countries, on-the-go snacking is now preferred over traditional sit-down meals, especially by younger consumers.

This movement was aptly labeled “Snackification.” It’s changing the look of grocery and supermarket shelves around the world.

It’s also creating potential opportunities for U.S. wheat.

A 2022 survey by Euromonitor International revealed growing numbers of global consumers who look for snacks when shopping for food.

A 2022 survey by Euromonitor International revealed growing numbers of global consumers who look for snacks when shopping for food.

Snack ‘Em if You Got ‘Em

A Euromonitor survey conducted in 2022 showed South Asia as having the most robust snacking habits. About 45% of Vietnamese consumers surveyed indicated that when shopping for food, they “look for snacks that are convenient to take and eat outside the home.” Roughly 38% of consumers in the Philippines responded the same way. The survey revealed that in Latin America, Colombia had the highest number of outside-the-home snackers with 37%. Brazil was close behind at 36%.

As a comparison, and for perspective, fewer than 30% of consumers in the U.S. were focused on snacking while shopping for food.

Those who study global consumer trends expect the new generation of “snackificators” to munch its way into the future.

“Snack brands already had a large portion of the breakfast category – breakfast bars, breakfast cakes and pastries, and so on – but with consumer preferences changing during COVID, snack foods are now intentionally being positioned as meal replacements throughout the entire day,” offered Carl Quash, head of Snacks and Nutrition for Euromonitor International, an independent market research firm based in London.

Quash, who oversees packaged snack research and analysis in more than 100 markets worldwide, presented a webinar titled “Snackification: The Future of Occasions to USDA stakeholders on Jan. 30.

“Snacking is likely to increase as people become busier and more mobile, and as they feel more comfortable in traveling once pandemic fears fade for good,” said Quash. “Add to that the fact many consumers are now replacing meals with snacks – they snack throughout the day instead of sitting down for a meal.”

Market research has shown increased demand for snack foods, as the dining habits of global consumers continue to evolve.

Market research has shown increased demand for snack foods, as the dining habits of global consumers continue to evolve. USW continues to work with millers and bakers around the world to help in the development of new snack food products made with U.S. wheat and the improvement of existing products.

An Opportunity Knocking?

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) recognized the new shift, even before snackification became a buzzword. USW’s offices around the world have long been involved in helping develop new snack products made with U.S. wheat, while also helping improve and promote existing products in all markets.

USW promotes the quality advantages of all six U.S. wheat classes. For snack foods, soft red winter (SRW) wheat and soft white (SW) wheat are most commonly used. But hard white (HW) wheat, hard red winter (HRW) wheat and hard red spring (HRS) wheat each are a quality ingredient – ether for snack foods and breads, or as part of flour blends to produce snack foods.

Wheat can also be used in other forms to make snack products. Flaked or puffed wheat is commonly used to manufacture breakfast cereals and cereal snack bars. Wheat bran is added to biscuits, cakes, muffins and breads to increase the dietary fiber content. Wheat germ can be added to breads, pastries and biscuits, or sprinkled onto yogurt, breakfast cereal or fruit dishes to increase the B-Vitamin, protein and fiber content.

USW also provides millers and bakers around the world technical support, including assistance in applying Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) analysis to better predict performance characteristics of flour for cookies, crackers and cakes.

USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung says consumers in Asia are more and more interested in quick, "on the go" foods - crackers, cookies and even sometimes as simple as a slice of bread with various toppings.

USW Bakery Consultant Roy Chung says consumers in Asia are more and more interested in “on the go” foods – crackers, cookies and even something as simple as a slice of bread with toppings.

A ‘Wheat Team’ Effort, Here and Abroad

“Snackification is definitely a thing in the Philippines, with bread being primarily used for snack foods,” said Joe Bippert, USW Associate Regional Director in South Asia. “All across the region, there are many, many products that have fallen into the snack category, some traditional like crackers and cookies, and some new. We are working with buyers, millers and bakers to make sure U.S. wheat is part of this snackification movement. We also continue to work with our partners to develop new products with U.S. wheat.”

One of those partners is the Wheat Marketing Center (WMC). Based in Portland, Oregon, the WMC regularly conducts research projects on snack food-related topics and wheat flour formulations. USW offices around the world connect snack food makers to the WMC, which works to develop new products to meet changing consumer demands for attributes such as lower sugar or salt, new flavors or even different shapes of crackers, cookies, cakes, breads and other snacks.

A Universal Phenomenon

No one seems to know who created the term “snackification,” but it began appearing in trade journals and food blogs a decade ago. As it did then, today it is used to describe a trend in which consumers snack in place of meals.

A Harris Poll survey commissioned by Mondelēz International last year polled consumers in 12 countries. It found that more than 55% of consumers “nibbled frequently throughout the day” in place of three standard meals, while 71% said they snacked at least twice each day.

Mondelēz International’s fourth annual “State of Snacking” report that “snacking increasingly replaces traditional meals in consumers’ lives.”

“Our State of Snacking report confirms that in these trying times, consumers around the world view their favorite snacks as affordable and necessary indulgences,” Dirk Van de Put, Chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International, noted in the report. “Snacking continues to be a way for consumers to connect or to enjoy a moment of delight in their day, further demonstrating our belief that every snack can be enjoyed in a mindful way.”

Looking back, it is clear urbanization drove snackification, Quash explained.

“Convenience and portability were key due to time pressures and a culture where people were constantly under constraints and were looking for foods to eat while on the go, foods they could eat on their way to the office or in the office while working,” he said. “Although people are still spending more time at home than they did pre-pandemic, snacking has become part of the routine.”

Crackers, Cookies, Biscuits . . . and Bread, Too

In some cases, foods just changed roles. One key consumer trend for U.S. wheat is the fact that breads that were once a big part of traditional sit-down meals are in some countries being used to anchor snack time.

Roy Chung, USW Bakery Consultant based in Singapore, said consumers in Asian countries are walking into retail stores looking for “simple and fast.” In many cases, how the foods are packaged is the biggest factor.

“When it comes to wheat, products range from simple slices of bread made into different types of sandwiches, or just plain bread spread with margarine and topped with sugar, then packaged to eat on the move,” Chung explained. “There are buns with different kinds of fillings, including steam-type buns. These are considered a snack that can fill you up without having to pause to prepare a meal. Grab it and go, as they say.”

Microwave-ready cakes and muffins, prepared in a paper cup and baked at the store, are common.

“In the cracker category, there is canned tuna or salmon or sardines packaged with a stack of crackers, which are popular for people taking a day trip or a bus ride somewhere and are eaten in place of lunch or even dinner,” said Chung. “All of these products are a showcase for the quality of U.S. wheat.”

Consumers shopping their local food store for snacks have other demands, too.

“The snacking trend remains based on convenience, but consumers around the world have become more focused on three things: mobility, value and health,” said Quash. “For the wheat industry, those are generally good things because wheat products tend to deliver on all three.”

By Ralph Loos, USW Director of Communications



By Matthew Weaver, Copyright © Capital Press, February 8, 2023, Excerpts Reprinted with Permission

Wheat prices “probably won’t be quite as good [for farmers]” in 2023 as they were last year, a top grain economist says.

“We won’t see last year’s prices, we’ll be several dollars short of that,” said Randy Fortenbery, the Thomas B. Mick Endowed Chair in Small Grain Economics at Washington State University, told farmers during the Spokane Ag Show. “We can’t be thinking we’re going to see 2022 wheat prices … unless there’s some other shock that’s not being anticipated.”

Soft white wheat ranged from $8.45 to $8.55 per bushel on the Portland market as of Feb. 8. Fortenbery advised farmers to be careful about assuming they’ll see prices above $10 a bushel. He expects wheat prices to trade within a $3 to $3.50 a bushel range. About $9.25 to $10 per bushel would be the high end, he said. [Editor’s Note: USDA lowered its February forecast of average farm gate wheat prices in 2023 to $9.00 per bushel.]

A Different of Opinion

The International Grains Council and USDA have conflicting forecasts for global wheat trade, Fortenbery said.

The council expects total world ending wheat stocks to be up 3% compared to last year and a 1.3% reduction in world wheat trade, which suggests a decline in prices. USDA projects world wheat stocks to be down 2.6% and trade to be up 5%, which suggests a price increase. Fortenbery said he leans toward the international council’s projections.

Both agencies agree the combination of Russia and Ukraine wheat exports will be up compared to last year. The flow of grain out of the Black Sea market appears to have stabilized the price impact of the conflict, Fortenbery said.

SW, SRW Back at Parity

The relationship between Portland white wheat prices and Chicago [soft red winter] wheat futures prices is returning to normal, after white wheat reached a peak of $3 above Chicago futures prices in recent years. The norm for Portland is closer to $1 above Chicago.

Because of the extreme difference, soft white prices didn’t respond last year when Russia invaded Ukraine, while Chicago [soft red winter] wheat prices “exploded,” rising to meet the higher white wheat prices, Fortenbery said. The relative prices are back in synch with each other, he said.

Line chart of USDA and U.S. Wheat Associates data showing wheat prices for soft white and soft red winter exports have converged to near parity in 2022/23.

U.S. soft white and SRW export prices have converged in 2022/23 to near-parity. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Price Report – February 3, 2023.

“If the Black Sea ends up being a problem again this spring, we’ll get some bump out of that,” he said.

The market doesn’t currently expect that, but risk remains, Fortenbery said.

Commodity prices generally look favorable in the next few months, but input costs are also at historic highs, Fortenbery said. Almost every major expense category was significantly higher last year compared to 2021; some were up to 60% or more.

He’ll be watching general inflation, which affects interest rates and production loans, and natural gas and refined fertilizer shipments from the Black Sea.

For additional information on U.S. wheat export price trends, see this Wheat Letter post from January 30, 2023: Wheat Prices Trend Lower Even As Uncertainty Continues.


Last month, World Food Program USA reported that in 2022, for the third consecutive year, “the U.S. shipped over 1 million tons of wheat to global hunger relief efforts. The 1 millionth ton of wheat was loaded aboard the African Halycon cargo vessel and left Washington state on Saturday, November 26.”

As that shipment of donated U.S. soft white (SW) arrives in Yemen this month, USAID has issued two new food aid tenders for about 170,000 metric tons of U.S. hard red winter (HRW) to be donated to Ethiopia.

Six Years of Drought

“Years of drought in the Horn of Africa has created a serious food insecurity situation in Ethiopia and other countries,” said Peter Laudeman, Director of Trade Policy with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW). “The donated wheat will be distributed to local flour mills then to the Ethiopian people.”

A large portion of U.S. food aid is managed by USAID’s Food for Peace office primarily as emergency food assistance. USAID purchases U.S commodities at market price and donates them to meet the immediate nutritional needs of those facing hunger. In other cases, USAID will purchase and donate local or regionally grown commodities or provide market-based food vouchers and cash.

Right Food at the Right Time

The type of assistance varies based on local circumstances and needs. More than 541,000 metric tons of HRW wheat was donated to Ethiopia in 2022 and almost 490,000 metric tons of SW was donated to Yemen last year. These two wheat classes best meet the preferences for Ethiopian and Yemeni wheat food products.

Compared to commercial U.S. wheat sales to date in 2022/23, food aid is the fourth largest destination for HRW, the fifth largest destination for SW, and the seventh largest destination for total U.S. wheat sales.”          – USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford

U.S. wheat farmers have been partners in U.S. international food assistance programs for more than 60 years and take pride in sharing their harvest with populations that need it most.

“Those of us in the U.S. food and agriculture community talk all the time about feeding the world,” Laudeman said. “I think these humanitarian, international programs really resonate with farmers.”

Ron Suppes on a food aid monitoring visit to Kenya and Tanzania.

“Farmers are unique stakeholders in the international food aid conversation, and we’ve been loyal partners and advocates of these programs since they started. I want to see us continue our trend of excellence in providing food aid to the countries that need it most,” said Kansas wheat farmer and past USW Chairman Ron Suppes (center) in Congressional testimony after visiting Kenya and Tanzania on a trip to monitor U.S. wheat food aid programs in 2017. Mike Shulte (second from right), executive director of the Oklahoma Wheat Commission, also made the trip.

Big Hearts, Abundant Harvests

People in the U.S. have big hearts and genuinely see a need to step up to the plate when there are populations around the world that are experiencing hunger, whether that’s due to drought in Ethiopia or conflict in Yemen, or any of the other countries that the U.S. has sent aid to,” USW Vice President of Policy Dalton Henry told the World Food Program USA in December. These shipments show “the generosity of U.S. farmers, as they produce an abundance of commodities that can be shared around the world,” Henry said.

USW and the Food Aid Working Group, a joint working group between USW and the National Association of Wheat Growers, are proud of the wheat provided through these food aid programs and believe that commodity donation is an effective portion of the whole effort.